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SAME Conference 20

posted 4 Sept 2016, 14:06 by Chris Morris   [ updated 4 Sept 2016, 14:07 ]
Having signed up to be a member of SAME (The Scottish Association for Music Education) just a few months ago I was really excited for my first experience of a SAME Conference. I'm always looking for ways to develop as an instrumental instructor and the annual conference sounded like a fantastic way to do so.

I was especially excited to have shared this experience with my wife Heather. Heather is a primary school teacher and wants this year to focus on bringing music lessons back to her school, as there has been a lack of it partly due to music specialists being cut in Dundee a while back. I've long argued that music should be a part of school equally as important as any other subject, that it could transform lives as it has transformed my own. This is the ethos of the SAME Conference, “Transforming lives through learning; looking inwards, looking outwards, looking forwards”. 

The conference was held at Stirling University, which was a pleasure to visit. The grounds are stunning, with lovely views of the surrounding hills and a beautiful lake with plenty of ducks bobbing around. There seemed to be a bit of a problem with parking closer to the building where the conference was actually held, but we'd parked a little further down the road and avoided it, taking in the nice scenery as we walked.

We were introduced to this year's event by Ken Burton, a conductor and composer, and who was running his own inspirational singing session. He was very motivational, encouraging us all to aim to be excellent, to stand out. He also warmed our voices up with some energetic singing.

There were several interesting sessions to choose from, and to only pick three of them for the day was quite difficult. I felt that the three that would be of most use to myself would be:

1. Creative & Collaborative Music Lessons for the Whole School – Andy Gleadhill
2. SQA Assessment of Performing at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher Levels – Jane Rimmer
3. Tune Up Your Body – Monica Wilkinson

Session 1 – Creative & Collaborative Music Lessons for the Whole School

Andy Gleadhill is a musician I've heard a great deal about, and in fact have used plenty of his books and pieces in the past. It was a pleasure to meet him in person; unfortunately a lot of the time in the music industry, someone with such a rich background in performing as Andy has can turn out to be quite egotistical, but this certainly isn't the case with Andy Gleadhill. He covered an enormous amount in what was really a short time. We learned a lot about warming up, and about different methods of teaching music notation without using notation. 

It was also really inspiring and beneficial to see how he manages to use his “shoebox orchestra”, a small box containing very simple percussion, to deliver high quality percussion lessons to groups. On top of this we learned of some interesting games both using percussion and also just using hands slapping on knees that can be fun and engaging.

Session 2 -  SQA Assessment of Performing at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher Levels

This was the session I was most interested in for two reasons: firstly I regularly teach plenty of pupils who sit National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher music exams. I knew roughly what the requirements for drum kit at these levels were beforehand, but felt I needed a bit more information to be sure. Secondly, it's my goal to teach in schools some day, so of course this information is vital.

The session gave a great insight into exactly what students need to do for their exams, and also how the SQA mark their exams. We saw video examples of school musicians performing at all three levels, and how the SQA marked them. The instruments ranged from drummers and guitarists, to singers, to piano and keyboard players, and brass players. One of the biggest things I took from seeing how these young people were marked was the SQA are quite strict. It's given me encouragement to really aim to get the best out of my own pupils so that they can see excellent results in their exams.

Probably most importantly, the session has given me confidence to be a part in fixing a common problem. Drum kit is a popular instrument among young people, and the schools just don't have enough time or resources to give everybody lessons. Also, classroom teachers can't be expected to be experts on every instrument, so sometimes students might get a bit left behind in music. I feel I'm in a much better position to help students prepare for their exams now, and look forward to doing so.

Session 3 – Tune Up Your Body

Heather and I attended this session together, and had both misunderstood a little bit. I had assumed that it would be some sort of body percussion class, even tweeting so just before the class. However, Monica Wilkinson's session was more about using movement to teach things in music such as pulse, time signatures and phrasing. Monica uses the Dalcroze method, which I had heard about, but knew very little about. 

I used the word “refreshing” to describe this session, and it was the first word that came to mind purely because I'd never experienced anything like it before. The session had all of the participants smiling throughout and the ease that Monica made us feel meant that we all got involved fully. I was glad I went to this session as I do think it's something I could use in some of the group sessions I run. I'll also be looking more into
Dalcoze to learn more about what that method is all about.

When the day came to a close my head was buzzing with all of the information I'd picked up throughout the three sessions, and also in chats with many of the exhibitors, which added even more value to what the SAME Conference offers. As I write this blog on Sunday night, three days have passed since the conference and I feel as though I'm still going through all the things I've taken away from the conference and learning from it.

I'll certainly be back next year!